A History of The Barras
Here at Braw Wee Emporium, we’re immensely proud to be located in the heart of the East End next to one of Glasgow’s most famous institutions – The Barras Market. A bustling shopping area filled with local traders, market stalls and small businesses, the Barras is steeped in Scottish history and culture.
The East End has been long frequented by bric-a-brac hunters as far back as the late 18th Century, when the city’s population grew thanks as a result of industrial developments and immigration from the Highlands and Ireland. At the time, Briggait was popular rag and second hand clothes traders.
Then along came Margaret Russell – an ambitious and motivated young woman who, after tending to a fruit barrow for a family friend, saved up to open a fruit shop in Bridgeton. Maggie was a force to be reckoned with in the local area. After the war brought increased traffic on the city’s roads and renewed attempts to discourage street trading. Maggie and her husband James wanted to provide a place for trading to continue. The McIver’s organized a Saturday market on their land which was hugely popular, attracting over 300 trading carts.
It’s not a widely-known fact, but the Glaswegian word barras describes the handcarts which the traders used to hawk their wares – hence “The Barras”.
When Maggie’s husband died she was left to raise nine children alone. In the 1930s dancing was becoming hugely popular, so she opened the Barrowland Ballroom on Christmas Eve 1934. This helped her to provide for her large family, and the ballroom soon became world-renowned.
Maggie died a multi-millionaire in 1958. The Barras Market remains in her family to this day, and it continues to be dominated by female stallholders – a testament to the strong businesswoman and entrepreneur that she was. She is a huge inspiration to Braw Wee Emporium.
In recent years, with The Barras becoming noticeably quieter than in previous decades, Glasgow City Council discussed proposals to redevelop the area. As a result, we’ve seen many shop fronts being upgraded and the installation of the lovely Barrowland Park. In 2018, the Calton Barras Action Plan will see resurfacing work at the Mercat Cross and regeneration projects to restore the vibrancy of the Barras and the surrounding area.
There is still much to be done to reach the full potential of the local area, but we think that Maggie McIver would be proud – and we would have loved to introduce her to the Braw Wee Emporium and we’re excited for what the future holds in the East End.